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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) is as well known for his temper as he is for his power over spending and influence over legislation. His outbursts on the Senate floor and his ties featuring the Incredible Hulk are trademarks.
Yet while his threat to quit the Senate over the funding of a bridge in Alaska may have brought a lot of time on news shows, it took a speech he gave at a markup on Net Neutrality to make him a multi-media star.
Almost two weeks ago, we posted an excerpt of audio from the Senate markup of the telecom bill, a long oration by Senator Stevens explaining why he was voting against a Net Neutrality amendment. In doing so we seem to have inadvertently sparked an internet meme, the Internet as a "series of tubes." This Technorati chart gives a sense of the trend:
While it's been great to watch the conversation grow on blogs and epic comments threads, (even sparking a backlash!) it's been even more fascinating to watch the parallel creation of Stevens-inspired user-generated content: a t-shirt, a powerpoint slideshow, even a song and a techno remix! The read/write Internet in action . . .
Wednesday, June 28
3 PM (or so)
Senate Markup of S. 2686
Public Knowledge Intern Bill Herman, who's been reflexively recording anything he can since getting a digital voice recorder for dissertation interviews, records the Senate markup of S. 2686 from the Real Audio stream playing on Alex's laptop. Ostensibly, this is so that Art Brodsky, out of the office, can listen to it later. Through this single act, Senator Stevens' famous (within certain circles) "series of tubes" speech is saved from obscurity.
5:59 PM Alex Curtis posts audio of Senator Stevens' comments on Public Knowledge's blog.
Thursday, June 29
10:11 AM Art Brodsky sends out a heads up to the PK press list, alerting them to the Stevens post.
Sunday, July 2
9:32 AM Metafilter: "Shun the frumious net neutrality..." (74 Comments)
11:45 AM BoingBoing: "Sen. Stevens' hilariously awful explanation of the Internet"
Time unknown Digg "Senator Ted Stevens Downloads the Entire Internet and Complains It's Slow!" (375 Comments)
Senator Stevens' Wikipedia entry is quickly updated to include a sizable entry on his "series of tubes" speech.
Monday, July 3
5:29 AM Slashdot: "How the Internet Works -- with Tubes" (652 Comments)
Meryl Yourish publishes her delightful Powerpoint presentation to assist Senator Stevens' in explaining how the Internet works. Friends convert the .ppt file to a series of jpegs and a pdf to conserve bandwidth.
Thursday, July 6
6:43 PM The backlash begins. In a post entitled "More Educating; Less Snickering, the folks over at the 463 blog take the blogosphere to task for mocking Senator Stevens' ignorance of the Internet, and advocate educating policymakers on information technology policy. Cynthia Brumfield at IP Democracy echoes these sentiments the next day.
Saturday, July 8
Dan Mitchell, at the tail end of his New York Times "What's Online" column on the Long Tail, notes Mr. Stevens' difficulties sending the Internet via email to his staff.
My personal favorite, this haunting melody appears on MySpace Music performed by newly created Brooklyn folk/ghettocrunk group, the "Ted Stevens Internet Fan Club." (This page is now gone, mysteriously)